What is Wilderness Medicine?

Wilderness Medicine is the branch of medicine that addresses prevention, assessment, and treatment of accidents and illness in the backcountry where rapid access to the national 911 system is NOT an option. It has been defined as the practice of medicine with limited resources in austere environments. It ranges from the initial treatment and evacuation of patients with acute injuries to the management of illnesses experienced by patients on long term expeditions. Its broad scope includes, but is not limited to:

  • Trauma and Emergency Medicine
  • Sports Medicine
  • Rescue and Evacuation
  • Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine
  • Disaster Medicine
  • Tropical and Travel Medicine
  • Expedition Medicine
  • High-Altitude/Mountaineering Medicine
  • Survival Medicine
  • Tactical Medicine

Courses in wilderness medicine focus on major and minor traumatic injuries, environmental problems, and expedition medicine. Skills taught exceed those required by traditional ambulance and rescue workers and meet the special needs of trip leaders, guides, and remote Search & Rescue teams.

Wilderness Medicine is a rapidly evolving field that is increasingly important as large numbers of people are involved in outdoor activities for adventure, science, recreation, exploration, industry, combat, and disaster relief.

In National Parks alone, visits increased from 212 million visitors in 1980, to more than 285 million visitors in 2000, and in 2014, there were just under 293 million visitors! It is important to have individuals trained to meet the unique challenges and emergencies that arise in diverse environmental conditions far from definitive medical care.